SHOPPING IN COZUMEL
Everyone coming to Cozumel needs to bring back a little something for the baby sitter, kids, cat sitter, mother-in-law, or someone else who stayed home and missed out on all the fun. Luckily, there are all kinds of great items available in Cozumel that will fill that bill, from diamonds to refrigerator magnets.
Cozumel Souvenirs and Gifts
For quality gifts, we recommend shopping at Los Cinco Soles, on Avenida Melgar between calles 10 and 8.
Silver. All silver in Mexico is required by law to be marked by a strike mark stamped into the metal stating its purity. Many things look like silver when polished, so make sure your piece is stamped.
Vanilla. There are some stores that sell vanilla “flavoring” made from the cheaper tonka bean which contains the toxin coumarin. Be sure to check the label to know you are buying pure vanilla extract and not vanilla flavoring. The best vanilla is grown in Papantla, Veracruz and sold by Los Cinco Soles.
Tequila. Tequila is not made on Cozumel. Neither is Mescal. These are made in other parts of Mexico.
Cuban Cigars. You cannot bring Cuban cigars back to the US. Smoke ‘em here. Be aware that there are a lot of counterfeit Cuban cigars for sale on Cozumel. Be sure to buy your cigars from a reputable dealer and not a street vendor. See our article on Cozumel’s counterfeit Cuban cigars HERE.
Sea Shells. Buying sea shells in Cozumel is not exactly illegal in itself, but it does encourage the illegal harvesting of the shells. Please don’t buy any of them so our reefs and seafloor can stay healthy.
US Customs Rules
Duty and Duty Free Exemption. You have an $800 duty-free exemption on goods you bought for yourself or as gifts and are bringing with you back to the US from Mexico. This exemption can only be used once every 30 days. This exemption can include up to 200 cigarettes and up to 100 cigars. Cuban cigars, cigarette, and other tobacco products are prohibited. If you bring more than your allowed amount of permitted tobacco, you must pay duty and state taxes on them. After subtracting your duty free exemption amount from the total cost of your purchases (including items purchased in a “duty free” store), a flat 3 percent rate will be charged on the next $1,000 worth of merchandise. Any amount over this $1,000 will be charged at the applicable flat duty rates. The flat duty rate may only be used for things you bought for your own use or for gifts. Duty must be paid upon arrival in the U.S. You can pay in cash (no foreign currency), by personal US check, money order or traveler’s check. In some airports, you can pay with a credit card, but don’t count on it
Don’t be confused by the term “duty-free shops.” That name doesn’t mean that you won’t be subject to duty when you return to the US. Items sold in duty-free shops are free of duty and taxes only in the country where the shop is located.
Alcohol. You are allowed to bring in 1 liter (33.8 fluid ounces) of an alcoholic beverage (liquor, beer, wine) as part of your duty-free exemption if you are 21 or older and the beverage is a gift or for your own use. Importation of absinthe, or any other liquor or liqueur containing an excess of Artemisia absinthium (wormwood) is prohibited. All Cuban-made alcohol is prohibited.
Drugs and medications. The FDA prohibits importation of medications, narcotics or devices not approved for use in the US or requires a doctor’s prescription. These items will be confiscated even if you acquired them through a foreign doctor’s prescription.
Prohibited items. Prohibited items include: Cuban cigars and tobacco products, fruit, meat, plants, black coral, absinthe, carey (a.k.a. “tortoise shell”), turtle oil, turtle oil hand creams, mounted turtle specimens, counterfeit trade-marked merchandise, and drug paraphernalia.